New treatments for old problem

by World Grain Staff
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With cockroaches inhabiting the earth for millions of years and rodents causing trouble since before the great plague of the Middle Ages, it might seem like we’ve exhausted all our options for dealing with pests. While the best way to prevent pests is through sanitation and proactive facility maintenance, grain processing and storage facilities have a tougher battle to wage when it comes to stopping insects and rodents from seeking out — and destroying — their products. That’s where some new high-tech pest management tools can come in handy, along with some old tricks used in new ways.

Heat may not be high tech, but using high temperatures to treat for pests is gaining in popularity. An alternative to broadbased, non-chemical treatments, pest management professionals use heated air to treat and eradicate a variety of pests, including stored product pests and cockroaches. Heat treatments utilize propane heaters and a portable duct system to raise ambient temperatures in your facility to between 140 and 180 degrees F – targeting infestations at all stages, including pest larvae and eggs. It can be used where traditional treatments cannot — providing an efficient solution for single or multi-unit buildings, bins and silos, and trailers and rail cars. A typical heat treatment session, including set up, only takes a day, making it a convenient alternative to fumigation or multiple chemical applications. In addition to managing pests, heat treatments are effective in helping to stop the growth of mold, bacteria and viruses, while also deep cleaning pollutants.

Sound has long been used to control pest birds and even large mammals like elephants, which are kept out of farms and villages by the sound of swarming bees. A new use of sound is to mimic the cries of baby rodents in distress. You’re probably thinking this would attract concerned mother rats, but it actually attracts alpha male rodents seeking to eat the young. The sounds lure the alpha males into traps — removing that particular rodent and any potential offspring.

While the use of heat and sound are old tricks with new uses, some technologies are the result of years of research.

For those in the grain industry, one of the most exciting developments in pest management is mating disruption technology, which is built on years of insect research. Similar to pheromone traps, which attract insects to a sticky trap, these devices also utilize pests’ own biology against them. Hung in a warehouse or processing facility, they release pheromones into the air and confuse male Indian meal moths, who are then unable to detect females to mate with. The sheer concentration of released pheromones overloads the males’ antennae, leading the males to follow false trails and masking the actual trails created by females. The result is less mating and fewer larvae each mating cycle. The mating pheromones are nontoxic and can reduce the use of insecticides.

What might sound like something out of the future, ionization machines spray an inert product into the air which contains negative ions. These negative ions then bind to particles in the air such as pollen, dust and odors so they are removed from the air in your facility. This type of odor elimination can help to reduce a major pest attractant as pests use odors to find food. Since there are no chemicals involved, this option can be a good fit for grain processing and storage facilities.

Even though it’s tempting to think technology will solve your pest problems, you still need to rely on the tried and true essentials of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. No new device can take the place of a strong partnership between a facility’s management and staff and their pest management professional. Working as a team, you can tackle pest problems proactively rather than waiting on problems to reach levels where grain products are endangered and treatments can be costly.

As you likely know, IPM relies on sanitation and facility maintenance to limit pests’ access to their basic survival needs: food, water, shelter and optimal temperatures. An ongoing cycle, the essentials of IPM fall under three overarching steps: assess, implement and monitor. Your pest management provider will work with you to assess any pest problems or conditions that could lead to pest problems. Together you’ll look at options for prevention and treatment before deciding on which to implement in your facility. And finally, to ensure your program is working, continuous monitoring is necessary. IPM is a fluid process and changes will likely be needed as pest pressure and conditions change.

The old adage of out with the old and in with the new doesn’t necessarily apply to pest management, though. Work with your pest management provider to try new prevention and treatment techniques, but always implement them as part of the old gold-standard: IPM.

Dr. Zia Siddiqi is director of Quality Systems for Orkin. A board certified entomologist with more than 30 years in the industry, Dr. Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail or visit